A STAR IS BORN DIZZY­INGLY WON­DER­FUL

Cebu Daily News - - LIFE -

IT’Shard not to go into “A Star Is Born ” with­out a lot of pre­judg­ments. Even if you haven’t seen the other three ver­sions, the mere fact that they ex­ist, and with such for­mi­da­ble tal­ent, is enough to make any­one scoff at the fact that Hol­ly­wood keeps dust­ing off this well-worn story about fame and love and ad­dic­tion. And then you throw in the fact that it was made by a first-time di­rec­tor, who also hap­pens to be a movie star, no less, and the whole thing seems even more du­bi­ous. Leave that all at the door, though, be­cause “A Star Is Born,” is sim­ply ter­rific—

a big-scale cin­e­matic de­light that will have the masses singing, swoon­ing and sob­bing along with it.

It’s quite a feat from Bradley Cooper, who di­rected, cowrote, pro­duced and stars in the film. Cooper plays Jack­son Maine, a mas­sively pop­u­lar singer-song­writer whose path in­ter­sects with an un­known and over­looked tal­ent named Ally (a mag­nif­i­cent Lady Gaga) and the two be­come en­tan­gled as his star fades and hers rises.

When the film starts, Jack­son is at the height of his fame, the type of fame where gro­cery store cashiers take pho­tos of you with­out ask­ing, where you can send a pri­vate jet to usher a girl you just met to your con­cert and where you can be an al­co­holic tee­ter­ing on the edge be­cause you’re ta­lented and charis­matic and you make too many peo­ple too much money and, be­sides, you’re ba­si­cally func­tion­ing aside from the tin­ni­tus.

Cooper puts the viewer right with Jack­son as he takes the stage at a big fes­ti­val. His rou­tine, you imag­ine, doesn’t al­ter that much: Pop the pills. Drink the drink. Take the hat off. Play. Sing. Exit stage left to drink some more. Only this night, he ends up some­where a lit­tle off his reg­u­lar path, at a drag bar where Ally, in full Edith Piaf cos­tume, wakes him out of his am­bling stu­por with “La Vie En Rose.” And with a star-mak­ing close-up of Ally, Jack­son, and the au­di­ence, fall in love.

Cooper and Gaga have in­cred­i­ble chem­istry, the kind that makes you be­lieve that two strangers would know in a night that they’re made for each other. Be­fore you know it, he’s ask­ing her to come up on stage with him to sing her song, “Shal­low,” which some­one films, puts on YouTube and cre­ates a vi­ral sen­sa­tion.

The first hour of “A Star Is Born” is down­right elec­tri­fy­ing—funny, ex­cit­ing, sexy and wholly lived-in. Char­ac­ters you just met feel like old friends, from the drag queens at the club to Ally’s fa­ther (An­drew Dice Clay) and his fel­low driv­ers. Sam El­liott, as Jack­son’s brother, might only have 15 min­utes of screen time, but it’s enough to break your heart (and prob­a­bly earn him some awards love too). “A Star Is Born” is that rare film that makes you ac­tu­ally feel part of a world, and not just like an ob­server on the other side of a screen.

But like all good things, the en­gine of that first hour only gets the film so far, and the sec­ond half has its short­com­ings. Cooper rushes through an enor­mous amount of story to wrap things up in a rea­son­able run­time. While he does ac­com­plish this, it comes at the ex­pense of Ally as a char­ac­ter who goes from earthy singer-song­writer to a Katy Perry-like pop diva in an in­stant with­out much in­quiry.

This film wears its the­sis on its sleeve and is try­ing to make a point about be­ing an artist with “some­thing to say” and mak­ing use of the time when peo­ple are lis­ten­ing. Jack­son val­ues au­then­tic­ity above all else, but we never get to learn what Ally wants out of her ca­reer—all we know is that Jack­son, and pre­sum­ably Cooper, dis­ap­prove of the ar­ti­fice.

But the ac­tors and the film­mak­ing hold up “A Star Is Born” where the story can­not. Gaga is a gifted ac­tress, nat­u­ral, vul­ner­a­ble and strong as she goes toe-to-toe with Cooper in what might be his best per­for­mance—the man truly dis­ap­pears into Jack­son Maine. And as a di­rec­tor, well, he is the real deal and, with this sort of in­tro­duc­tion, def­i­nitely far from the shal­low now.

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